New book takes hard look at democracy in Iran

The modern history of Iran has been a narrative of violence, writes York political science Professor Ramin Jahanbegloo in his new book, Democracy in Iran, launching next week.

This violence has been in the “form of conflicting discourses between the religious and the secular or DemocracyInIranbetween the modernists and the traditionalists,” writes Jahanbegloo, York-Noor Visiting Chair in Islamic Studies at York and a senior Fellow at the Canada Centre for Global Security Studies.

“However, the ethical moment of nonviolence has become an ethical standard for the Iranian civil society against the absolutist nature of politics in contemporary Iran.”

Democracy in Iran (Palgrave Macmillan) will launch Monday, Oct. 28, from 2:30 to 4:30pm, at the York Bookstore, Keele campus.

The book argues that despite lacking any sort of military advantage over the regimes they have confronted, the Iranian people have never been dissuaded from rising against and challenging varying forms of injustice. Through the successful implementation of nonviolent action Iranians have overcome the violence of successive governments by undermining their moral and political legitimacy.

But more than 100 years after the Constitutional Revolution of 1906, Iranians are still in search of a social covenant through which they can acquire and practice public freedom. The stakes are extremely high. If Iran fails to end its culture of violence as a state and society then it risks its future as a stable, democratic state.

Democracy in Iran asks: So how then can the Iranian people break the cycle of violent and oppressive regimes and start looking towards a non-violent and democratic future? Jahanbegloo argues that by shunning violence and showing a readiness to face down persecution that the Iranian people have a chance to secure their freedom.

Jahanbegloo won the Peace Prize from the United Nations Association in Spain in 2009 for his academic work promoting cross-cultural dialogue and his advocacy for non-violence, as well as the Palau i Fabra International Prize for the Best Essay in 2011. His most previous publication, Gandhian Moment, was published in 2013.